Judd Gregg just had a meltdown on MSNBC that came out of nowhere. He's been attacking everything Obama, almost from the minute he turned down a Cabinet post offer from the White House, but his performance today was really weird. The conversation was about spending and, as usual, Gregg was acting like the incredible deficit freak that he is.
Melissa Francis is a CNBC talker who believes just like he does, and for some reason he mistook her for a dirty f*&king hippy and claimed she was setting him up as a man who wants to cut all spending on education. In fact, the only thing people like him and Ron Paul believe will work for America is to cut all government spending and federal programs and then just give tax cuts to the rich.
Then, Contessa Brewer brought up the fact that many economists think that when FDR became a deficit hawk so soon after expanding spending that he helped stop the country's economic growth. She asked him if he thought money from education should be cut, he went off and called them liars.
Gregg: First off, nobody is saying no money for schools, what an absurd statement to make. And what a dishonest statement to make. On its face you're being fundamentally dishonest when you make that type of statement.
Brewer: Senator, you're going to be asked to cut certain programs from government if you're on the Senate banking committee. Which programs -- just tell us -- would you cut?
Gregg: And then it gets misrepresented by people like yourself who say they are going to, if you do any of this stuff you're going to end up not funding education. I mean that statement alone is the most irresponsible statement I've heard from a reporter probably in a month.
Brewer: It wasn't a statement, it was a question.
Gregg deliberately misconstrued what they said, and the conversation went downhill from there. Gregg acted like a typical conservative bully around women, and if they were both men he would not have tried to call them liars. Meanwhile, Contessa ended the interview very professionally. He owes Brewer and Francis an apology for his behavior.
And Digby explains why the question about cutting education is based in reality.
I'll let Gregg's tantrum stand on it's own. But I would just point out that it's not absurd in the least to ask if Republicans would cut education. Indeed, it's absurd to suggest otherwise:
President Ronald Reagan promised during the 1980 presidential election to eliminate the Department of Education as a cabinet post, but he was not able to do so with a Democratic House of Representatives. In the 1982 State of the Union Address, he pledged:
The budget plan I submit to you on Feb. 8 will realize major savings by dismantling the Department of Education.
Throughout the 1980s, the abolition of the Department of Education was a part of the Republican Party platform, but the administration of President George H. W. Bush declined to implement this idea.
So, not only was Brewer right to ask whether Gregg planned to cut education as part of a deficit reduction plan, there has been a very longstanding belief among conservatives that they should not be funding education at all.
If there was anyone at fault for spreading misinformation and lies on television it's Gregg with his irresponsible deficit fearmongering and Hooverite prescriptions for the economy. God help us if he and his ilk actually get their way.
And you can't help but scratch your head when you think that a year ago, when everyone knew that the economy was in deep trouble and would need a lot of stimulus, the administration actually named this guy to be Commerce Secretary, a department which Gregg had voted to eliminate as well. That tells you a lot about their judgment at the time.
Digby wrote up the full transcript:
Contessa Brewer: Let's bring in now Republican Judd Gregg a senator of New Hampshire, a top Republican on the budget committee and a ranking member of the Senate banking committee. What do you think about the money the president is preparing to spend on jobs and what Mark was just saying, that it has to go hand in hand with other programs, job training, professional skill and certainly educating very young people?
Judd Gregg: Well we're running a 1.3 trillion dollar deficit this year. The government is going to spend over three trillion dollars. All of that deficit goes into the debt which will be paid by our children and our children's children. I think somebody's going to have to ask a more fundamental question. How are you going to get the economy going if you run up the debt to the point where we can't afford our government? Uh, that is a much more fundamental question.
If you want to do something to energize this economy, I think you put in place some plans that control the rate of growth of government so that people can have confidence that this nation is not going to go into some form of fiscal bankruptcy in five to seven years. And that will cause people to be willing to invest and be willing to take risks and create jobs. Jobs are not created by the government. You know long term, good jobs are created by a vibrant economy and you don't get a vibrant economy when the government and the size of the government and the debt of the government is overwhelming the capacity of the economy to function right.
Francis: That's good in theory Senator ...
Gregg: That's not theory! It's not theory! Don't tell me it's theory!
Francis: tell me how to put it to work ...
Gregg: No you don't tell me it's theory. What are you... How do you get off saying something like that?
Francis: (who is a conservative by the way) Because it is good in theory. Of course, it's fantastic. Here's your opportunity senator... let me finish .. to tell us all how it would be put to work. I'm all for small government.
Gregg: You stop the spending spree. You stop the government from growing so fast that you can't afford to pay for it. You don't increase the size of government from 20% of GDP to 25% of GDP in two years. You don't add a trillion dollars of new debt to our kids back every year for the next ten years. You don't pass a budget... the president doesn't send up a budget that double the debt in five years, triples it in ten years! You don't say that you're for fiscal responsibility and then propose a whole panoply of new programs that you can't pay for. That's not theory, that's reality! That's what we're facing as a nation. This is the reality of a fiscal meltdown of our country which is going to have a massive impact on people's lives and cost a lot of jobs in this country.
Contessa Brewer: So my partner Melissa, Senator Greg, is really asking for specifics. If you don't believe that we should have a 1.3 trillion dollar budget, which programs are you willing to cut. Are you willing to tell schools, no money for you? And do you side then with those who say, when you look back at the great depression, economists say that we landed back into real problems in 1937 when people got onto cutting the deficit and a lot of government spending was pulled back before it should have been?
Gregg: Well first off, nobody is saying no money for schools. What an absurd statement to make. What a dishonest statement to make. On its face you are being fundamentally dishonest when you make that type of statement.
Brewer: We're just asking which programs you would cut
Francis: tell us what to cut...
Gregg: Do you know how much money is spent on education in the federal government this year?
Brewer: Senator, you're going to be asked to cut certain programs if you're on the Senate banking committee. Which programs would you want to cut?
Gregg: Oh I have no problems telling you. I would freeze discretionary spending. A real freeze, not a freeze plus inflation. I would eliminate the TARP money which would get us close to 400 billion dollars. I would end the stimulus spending effective in June of this year, if not sooner, so we can recover all the money that's going to be spent outside the window of this recession and we shouldn't be spending it adding it to the debt. I would take a major effort to try to reform our entitlement programs. In fact we had a major vote yesterday to try to do that under a bill which I've proposed with Senator Conrad.
So I've made some very specific proposals and I'm willing to stand by them. The problem is that this administration's view of governance is that economic prosperity is created by growing the government dramatically and then it gets misrepresented by people like yourself who are saying that if you do any of this stuff you are going to end up not funding education. That statement alone is the most irresponsible statement I've heard probably in a month.
Brewer: it wasn't a statement, it was a question...
Gregg: And there are a lot of irresponsible statements made by reporters and that was the most irresponsible I've heard.
Francis: Senator, with respect, that's not what she said, she was asking you what you would like to cut ..
Gregg: =That's exactly what she said! Go back and read your transcript.
Brewer: thank you for your time, Senator ...
Gregg: You can't be duplicitous about this! You can't make a representation and then claim you didn't make it. You've got to have some integrity on your side of this camera too.
Francis: She asked you what you would like to cut, she asked you if you would cut schools. You said no.
Gregg: You're suggesting we should have a zero in education. Well of course, nobody's suggesting that. Nobody's even implying that. But in your introduction to me you said that. That education funding would be cut. Well, education funding isn't going to be cut.
Brewer: Well Senator, I'm sorry for any communication problems that we've had, but as always, we appreciate your time ...